DNR News Digest – Week of Sept. 25, 2023

DNR News Digest – Week of Sept. 25, 2023

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News Digest – Week of Sept. 25, 2023

worn wooden crates full of small orange pumpkins, green-striped acorn squash and pale tan butternut squash
Here are just a few of this week’s stories from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of some of the images used in this email are available in this folder.

Photo ambassador snapshot: Waiting out the fish

a young boy in jeans, jacket and blue baseball cap stands on shore, holding a fishing rod with line cast close by in calm waterWant to see more pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Morgan Liskey at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Chippewa and Luce counties? Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the photo ambassador program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.

Learn about wetlands, waterfowl at October open houses

a black dog, up to his shoulders in marshy water with lily pads and tall grasses, holds a duck in his mouth Whether you want to learn about waterfowl hunting opportunities, enjoy excellent wildlife viewing or hear about the benefits of healthy wetlands, October is the perfect time to discover Michigan’s Wetland Wonders.

These are the premier managed waterfowl hunt areas in the state, created for exceptional waterfowl hunting opportunities and managed to provide waterfowl habitat for nesting and migration and for the benefit of other wetland wildlife. Since the start, the areas have been funded by hunting license fees and area use fees, but they are open for anyone to visit and enjoy most of the year.

Several of the Wetland Wonders will host open houses next month, giving visitors the chance to talk with local staff, tour the areas and see what each one offers for the upcoming waterfowl season. All open houses begin at 6 p.m. at the area’s headquarters:

Open house information also is listed on the special events tab of each location’s webpage.

Three unique ways to enjoy Michigan’s fall color

two empty ski lift chairs at the top of a green, grassy slope, the lift cables stretch down through autumn forest with gold, red and orange colorMichigan’s fall foliage is all the rage this time of the year, and we’re sharing a few different ways to experience that red, orange and gold brilliance!

Leaf peepers in the western Upper Peninsula can catch bird’s-eye views of stunning fall color on a chairlift ride in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Ontonagon County). Need another reason? Ontonagon – home of the Porkies – was named among Country Living’s “55 of the Best Fall Towns in the U.S. for Foliage.”

The triple chairlift takes you to the top of the Porkies Winter Sports Complex’s ski hill Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 14; rides are available noon to 6 p.m. EDT. All you need is a Recreation Passport for vehicle entry to the park and a $10 (per person) lift ticket. Children 10 and under ride free, but must be accompanied by an adult.

At three state parks, specially adapted EnChroma lenses help those with colorblindness more easily see the entire color spectrum. Viewers are available at three locations in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, and single locations at Ludington State Park (Mason County) and William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor (Wayne County).

“The goal of EnChroma viewers is simple: to expand access to the outdoors,” said Mike Knack, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park manager. “With the help of these special lenses, we hope people with red-green colorblindness can enjoy the beauty of nature’s color palette more distinctly.”

a man in safety gear and helmet and strapped to a zip line, holds on to the handles as he rides through a colorful autumn forestZip through fall foliage at 25 mph on the Michigan Luge Adventure Park’s zip line in Muskegon State Park (Muskegon County).

Soar over the tree canopy, sand dunes and luge track before descending into the white pine and oak forest. The zip line operates Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 22.

Wherever fall color takes you, visit for the day or the weekend! Plan camping and overnight stays by making an advance reservation at MiDNRReservations.com or 800-447-2757.

Oct. 3 webinar: Choosing resilient trees for urban areas

six young trees, in black pots, with slender trunks and green leaves sit on a grassy areaAsh, elm and chestnut trees once were as common in cities as the streets that bear their names. Unfortunately, invasive species, disease and poor tree species selection have resulted in tree canopy that is much less diverse than it used to be. The good news is there’s plenty of guidance to help you make the right planting selections for your neighborhood or downtown space!

Mark your calendar for 9-10 a.m. (EDT) Tuesday, Oct. 3, and register for “Where the Sidewalk Ends: Choosing Resilient Trees for Tomorrow’s Urban Environments” – the next webinar in Michigan’s #NotMiSpecies series, aimed at helping people understand the threats posed by invasive plant and animal species and actions that can help limit the spread of those species.

In this webinar, DNR urban forester and partnership coordinator Lawrence Sobson will talk about ideal tree species and assessing urban sites for planting and growth, and share tips to ensure the trees you choose can live for the next hundred years.

If you can’t catch the webinar live, don’t worry; recordings of all #NotMiSpecies webinars are available to watch online at your convenience. More than two dozen recordings – on topics ranging from “Vampires of the Great Lakes” (sea lamprey) to “Lobster Mobsters” (red swamp crayfish) and “Yooper Troopers (controlling phragmites) – are available at Michigan.gov/NotMiSpecies.

Spooky specters, lurking lutins await at Fort Fright Oct. 6-7

the boot, leg and a furry arm and hand with long claws is climbing through an opening in a log-sided buildingIf your early October plans include time near Mackinaw City, add Fort Fright to your list of fun things to do with family and friends!

Friday and Saturday, Oct. 6-7, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., start with a lantern-lit walk along the shore of Lake Michigan to Colonial Michilimackinac, and then experience 18th-century French-Canadian folklore coming to life: All manner of monsters (and a few werewolves and lutins!) take over the fort and eagerly await your arrival inside. Campfires glow and voyageurs spin eerie tales and warn you of the terror that might await behind the guarded gates …

Read the full Mackinac State Historic Parks news release for all the spooky specifics about Fort Fright.


Want to weave a pair of traditional wooden snowshoes or field-dress and prep your own venison? Check out upcoming Outdoor Skills Academy classes!


Special-event permits, ORV safety certificates, retail bait shops, bear hunting applications – whatever you’re looking to buy or apply for, start here.


If you’ve got a love for the natural world, put that passion to work! Volunteer for a variety of Michigan and national community science opportunities.

DNR News: More than 9 million fish stocked so far in 2023

DNR News: More than 9 million fish stocked so far in 2023

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DNR News

Sept. 21, 2023
Contact: Jeremiah Blaauw, 906-235-7679

Fishing opportunities abound, with more than 9 million fish stocked so far in 2023

A dark green and silver DNR fish stocking truck, with the words Fish for the Future on the side, on sandy shore near wide river mouthMore than 269 tons of fish, eight different species, plus one hybrid, and a total of 9,335,410 individual fish – it all adds up to successful spring and summer stocking efforts by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and some great fall fishing for anglers.

Stocking is no small task. Over the course of 2,233 hours and more than 89,000 miles, DNR fisheries crews in 17 specialized trucks took 375 trips to stock fish at 705 different sites.

“We had excellent spring and summer stocking seasons that will bring significant benefits and fishing opportunities to Michigan anglers,” said Ed Eisch, DNR fish production manager. “With the hard work and dedication of our staff, healthy, high-quality fish were reared and delivered to stocking sites in excellent condition. The numbers produced and stocked were right on target for most areas.”

The number and type of fish produced varies by hatchery, as each location’s ability to rear fish depends on the source and temperature of the rearing water. In Michigan there are six state and two cooperative hatcheries that work together to produce the species, strain and size of fish needed for fisheries managers. These fish must then be delivered and stocked at a specific time and location to ensure their success.

A man dressed in green T-shirt and khakis stands on DNR fish stocking truck, overseeing distribution of fish through a large green hoseEach hatchery stocked the following fish this spring and summer:

  • Marquette State Fish Hatchery (near Marquette) stocked 341,423 yearling lake trout, brook trout and splake (a hybrid of lake trout and brook trout) that in total weighed 41,771 pounds. This hatchery stocked 98 inland and Great Lakes sites.
  • Thompson State Fish Hatchery (near Manistique) stocked 997,431 fish that included yearling steelhead and spring fingerling Chinook salmon. These fish weighed 78,659 pounds in total. This hatchery stocked 54 sites (the majority located on the Great Lakes).
  • Oden State Fish Hatchery (near Petoskey) stocked 679,488 yearling brown trout and rainbow trout that weighed 96,372 pounds. This hatchery stocked 123 inland and Great Lakes sites.
  • Harrietta State Fish Hatchery (in Harrietta) stocked 780,654 yearling brown trout, Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout that in total weighed 95,751 pounds. This hatchery stocked 228 sites (the majority located inland).
  • Platte River State Fish Hatchery (near Honor) stocked 2,350,685 fish that included yearling Atlantic salmon and coho salmon and spring fingerling Chinook salmon that in total weighed 158,038 pounds. This hatchery stocked 48 sites (the majority located on the Great Lakes).
  • Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery (near Kalamazoo) stocked 1,469,465 fish that included yearling steelhead, yearling muskellunge and spring fingerling Chinook salmon that in total weighed 121,467 pounds. Wolf Lake also stocked 11,473 channel catfish obtained from the Ohio DNR (weighing 2,828 pounds), as well as 33,679 Skamania steelhead (weighing 3,511 pounds). This hatchery stocked 49 sites (the majority located on the Great Lakes).
  • A cooperative teaching hatchery at Lake Superior State University (in Sault Saint Marie) stocked 28,646 Atlantic salmon weighing 2,510 pounds into the St. Marys River.

Included in this year’s total fish stocked were 2.7 million walleye spring fingerlings, fish that were reared in ponds by the DNR and tribal partners with extensive support provided by local sporting organizations. These fish were stocked at 90 inland lakes and rivers and Lake Michigan.

Fish stocking is a critical DNR activity. These efforts help support a Great Lakes fishery valued at more than $7 billion.

Fish are reared in Michigan’s state fish hatcheries anywhere from one month to 1 ½ years before they are stocked.

It should be noted that some hatcheries will provide fish for a few additional stockings (consisting of brook trout, rainbow trout, coho salmon, walleye, lake sturgeon and muskellunge) to be made this fall. The lake sturgeon will come from the cooperative hatchery in Tower, Michigan, that is operated with Michigan State University.

The public is welcome at any of Michigan’s state fish hatcheries to see firsthand the fish rearing process. For more information, visit Michigan.gov/Hatcheries.

Learn more about fishing opportunities, management and resources – including the DNR’s Fish Stocking Database, showing where many of these fish were stocked – at Michigan.gov/Fishing.

DNR NEWS: Over $1.5 million in grant funding available

DNR NEWS: Over $1.5 million in grant funding available

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DNR News

Sept. 12, 2023
Contact: Joe Nohner, 517-599-6825 or Chip Kosloski, 517-281-1705

Over $1.5 million in grant funding available for fisheries habitat conservation, dam removal and more

Project preproposals are due Oct. 20

Dried, downed tree limbs and branches are piled along the grassy shoreline of a dark-green lake; a tan home is visible in backgroundThe Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering more than $1.5 million in funding for a variety of activities tied to improving state fisheries and aquatic resources, including fish habitat conservation, dam removal and repair, resource assessment studies and public access to recreation opportunities.

Distributed through three themes – aquatic habitat conservation, dam management, and aquatic habitat and recreation in the Au Sable, Manistee and Muskegon river watersheds – Fisheries Habitat Grant funding is available through an open, competitive process to local, state, federal and tribal governments and nonprofit groups.

“Recreation and local economies throughout Michigan rely on healthy rivers, lakes, and wetlands to support fishing, boating and other enjoyment of our natural resources,” said Joe Nohner, a resource analyst with the DNR Fisheries Division. “These grants help our partners protect and rehabilitate fisheries and aquatic ecosystems in a state that relies heavily on those resources. In cases where we remove, repair or renovate dams, we also can improve public safety for residents and visitors.”

Examples of proposed projects addressing the causes of habitat decline include efforts to:

  • Improve the management of riparian land (land situated near or on the water).
  • Restore natural lake levels.
  • Improve or create passage for aquatic organisms by removing culverts, dams and other barriers.
  • Improve water quality.
  • Implement watershed-based approaches to improving both the quality and quantity of water.
  • Develop projects that demonstrate habitat conservation.
  • Restore stream function.
  • Add structural habitats, like woody habitat or aquatic vegetation.
  • Conduct assessments that will guide conservation projects.
  • Complete other projects that meet program goals.

Grant and application guidelines

Grant applicants may apply for and receive funding from all three themes with one application, if eligible for each. Expected funding is derived from three sources:

  • $989,000 from the state’s Game and Fish Protection Fund, supporting the aquatic habitat conservation theme.
  • $350,000 from the state’s General Fund, supporting the dam management theme.
  • At least $225,000 from a hydropower license and settlement agreement between Consumers Energy and several entities including the DNR, supporting aquatic habitat and recreation in the Au Sable, Manistee and Muskegon river watersheds.

Applicants have the option of requesting funding from the current funding cycle or a conditional commitment from a future year’s funding. Conditional commitments to very competitive projects allow recipients to leverage DNR contributions toward partner applications for additional funding sources on larger projects or secure a Fisheries Habitat Grant funding commitment based on other conditions. The available funding in this announcement does not include $150,000 in existing conditional commitments the DNR has made to partners from this year’s grant funding.

Grant amounts start at a minimum of $25,000 and have the potential to be as large as the total amount of funding available in all theme areas for which a project is eligible. If necessary, smaller projects within the same region addressing similar issues can be bundled into a single grant proposal package to reach the minimum grant amount.

a yellow and black Deer crane with a digging bucket scoops up part of an earthen dam along the rocky shoreline of a shallow body of water

Priority projects

The DNR identifies specific priority projects through its Fisheries Priority Habitat Conservation Projects list that may receive preference during proposal review. Applications for projects on this list will still need to be competitive in other aspects, such as cost, appropriate methods and design, and applicant expertise, so grant awards are not expected to exclusively fund projects on this list.

In previous grant cycles, about 40% of all funded projects were Fisheries Priority Habitat Conservation Projects. All applicants must first discuss their projects with their local DNR fisheries biologist, then complete and submit a short preproposal for DNR review. Preproposals must be:

Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their preproposal by Nov. 29 and, if selected, will be invited to submit a full application. An invitation to submit a full application does not guarantee project funding.

Final funding announcements are expected to be made by May 2024. The detailed program handbook, including timeline, preproposal guidelines and forms, is available at Michigan.gov/DNRGrants.

Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Caption information follows.

  • Au Train Lake: Over 90 woody habitat structures will be installed in Au Train Lake (Alger County, Michigan) to benefit fish, waterfowl, amphibians and other aquatic life. (Photo courtesy Matt Watkeys/Alger Conservation District)
  • Bald Mountain Dam: A Fisheries Habitat Grant funded the removal of Bald Mountain Dam to enable fish passage to a tributary of Paint Creek, a popular trout stream in Oakland County, Michigan. (Photo courtesy Michigan DNR)
DNR News Digest – Week of Sept. 25, 2023

DNR News Digest – Week of Aug. 28, 2023

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News Digest – Week of Aug. 28, 2023

An aerial view of Fort Wilkins Historic State Park is shown.

Fort Wilkins, in Copper Harbor, is open daily through Oct. 14.

Here are just a few of this week’s stories from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, aimed at helping you safely enjoy this holiday weekend while looking forward to fall fun!

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of some of the images used in this email, and others, are available in this folder.

Reminder: Mackinac Bridge closed Labor Day morning

long view of a huge, beige and pale green, gently arced suspension bridge over deep blue water, and blue sky and pale clouds behindHoliday travel plans include crossing the Mackinac Bridge? Remember that the Mackinac Bridge Authority will close the bridge Monday, Sept. 4, from 6:30 a.m. to noon for the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk.

If you’re looking for ways to fill your time, participating in the Mackinac Bridge Walk is free (and no registration is needed). There’s also lots to do on both sides of the bridge, such as visiting Mackinaw City or Ocqueoc Falls in the Lower Peninsula or exploring St. Ignace or Fayette Historic State Park in the Upper Peninsula – just to name a few.

For more state parks, campgrounds and outdoor recreation opportunities, contact Ami Van Antwerp at 517-927-5059.

ORV riders, let’s keep it safe all season long

a black, topped off-road vehicle leaves ruts in the dirt as it climbs up a sloped trail surrounded by mature treesA friendly reminder to off-road vehicle operators not just this holiday weekend but into the colder season, too: Ride Right to ensure you ride home safely to family and friends.

“Conservation officers see an increase in riders during holidays and on the weekends. Riders should keep that extra traffic in mind, especially when going around bends or over hills,” said the DNR’s Cpl. Mike Hearn. “ORV accidents are usually avoidable, but happen when people get caught up in the moment, keep increasing their speed, aren’t familiar with the terrain or their machine’s capabilities, or take a turn, hill or jump too fast without knowing what’s on the other side.”

Speed and rider inexperience are the primary contributing factors for ORV accidents, serious injuries and death. Make sure to Ride Right and keep these tips in mind:

  • If you are the leader of the group, ride to the newest operator’s abilities.
  • Understand and operate within the limits of your ORV and your own capabilities and experience.
  • Ride on the right side of the trail.
  • Keep lights on when riding.
  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Ride sober.

Get more ORV safety and trail etiquette information at Michigan.gov/RideRight. Find places to ride, rules and regulations, ORV events and more at Michigan.gov/ORVinfo.

Questions? Email Cpl. Mike Hearn at [email protected].

Get moving, exploring during Michigan Trails Week Sept. 17-24

small group of girls and boys in T-shirts, shorts and jeans smile as they run down a dirt trail lined with green treesWhen it comes to trails, there’s no place like home. Michigan offers more than 13,000 miles of designated state-managed trails, plus thousands of miles of local, county and federally managed trails and pathways.

This fall, celebrate your favorite kind of trail – your go-to paved path in your neighborhood, that oh-so-peaceful tree-lined switchback in your community, the deep-in-the-woods ORV two-track, the quiet horse-friendly trail, maybe even a serene water route at a nearby lake or river – during Michigan Trails Week Sept. 17-24.

Whether you prefer to bike, run, hike, ride or paddle these beautiful trails, consider ways to make the most of Michigan Trails Week (and a fall filled with fabulous outdoor exploration) in the Trails State:

  • Invite a friend or family member to join you.
  • Bring your favorite four-legged friend along for the adventure.
  • Try a new-to-you trail.
  • Take time to really notice the sights and scents around you – and how amazing it is to call the Great Lakes State home (or your home away from home if you’re visiting).
  • Pack a trash bag along with your water bottle (need to stay hydrated!) and pick up litter along the way.
  • Make a day of it and bring a picnic lunch or visit a locally owned restaurant for mid- or post-activity food and drink.

Learn more about routes to check out, trail etiquette, pet-friendly recreation spots, track chair availability, and the latest closure and detour information (and trail improvement projects underway) at Michigan.gov/DNRTrails.

For more information about state trails and recreation opportunities, contact Heather Durocher at 231-463-3512.

Use water safety smarts at beaches, breakwalls and piers

A red beach warning flag in the foreground, with people and umbrellas dotting the sandy beach behind. It's a sunny, blue sky day.If your plans include swimming at state parks, especially along the Great Lakes, be sure to brush up on beach safety before anyone goes in or near the water.

Many, but not all, state parks on the Great Lakes offer designated swimming areas that have additional safety measures and visual cautions. These areas are identified by buoys or buoys and markers, a beach flag warning system, and water depth less than 5 feet at the time of buoy/marker installation. You may also find other designated swim areas in places other than state parks.

It’s important to visit Michigan.gov/BeachSafety for details on state-designated swim beach locations, the beach flag warning system, tips on escaping Great Lakes currents, and more. If you’re at a beach with a flag warning system, check the color upon arrival and recheck throughout the day because conditions can change rapidly.

  • Green flag = low hazard. Calm conditions. Enter the water, but exercise caution.
  • Yellow flag = medium hazard. Moderate surf and/or currents. Watch for dangerous currents and high waves.
  • Red flag = high hazard. High surf and/or strong currents. It’s recommended that you stay on the beach.
  • Double red flags = water access closed. Dangerous conditions. Respect the new law that prohibits water access and do not enter the water.
several people outlined in shadow stand on a sandy beach during a golden sunset, as waves roll in. A red beach warning flag is postedBuoys and markers typically are installed before the Memorial Day holiday weekend and come down after Labor Day. After swim buoys are removed, that stretch of beach is no longer a designated swim area, and swimmers should use the same caution entering the water as they would any other nondesignated swim beach along the Great Lakes.

A few other cautions:

  • There are no beach guards at state parks, so never swim alone, always keep close watch of children and bring U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, especially for new and inexperienced swimmers.
  • Water currents near piers, breakwalls and outlets of rivers can be extremely hazardous.
  • Visitors in areas without designated swim beaches should use extreme caution because they will not have the benefit of the beach flag warning system or other visual cautions.
  • Check local weather reports and lake conditions and learn about different Great Lakes currents and how to escape them.

For more information, contact Pat Whalen at 269-838-1196.

Shoreline horseback riding, fat-tire biking at Silver Lake

two women in riding gear sit atop two cream-colored horses walking along a sandy beach next to a huge, calm, blue lakeHorseback riders and fat-tire bikers can explore one of Michigan’s most unique and popular destinations – Silver Lake State Park in Oceana County – with shoreline horseback riding and fat-tire biking this fall and winter.

The park is home to 450 acres of motorized dune riding. Each summer, thousands of motorcycles, quads, four-wheelers and other ORVs descend on these sugar-sand dunes, the only sand dune riding opportunity east of the Mississippi River.

The new shoreline and dune opportunities are part of the DNR’s ongoing efforts to expand off-season outdoor recreation in the Silver Lake ORV Area.

Equestrians can ride a predetermined route along Lake Michigan during the shoreline horseback riding season Nov. 1-30. The registration fee is $10 per horse per day, and 125 slots are available each day. Registration opens 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 1.

During the fat-tire biking season Dec. 15-March 15, cyclists on the sand dunes will enjoy elevation changes of 80-100 feet, access to Lake Michigan and sunsets over the lake from the top of the dunes. There is no cost or registration.

two people on fat-tire bikes are outlined in shadow, sitting atop tall sand dunes as sand swirls around them, backed by blue sky and clouds“Just as ORV season ends Oct. 31, Silver Lake’s ORV area begins opening up to nonmotorized uses as part of two distinct seasons,” said Jody Johnston, Silver Lake State Park manager. “It’s an incredible opportunity for both equestrians and bicyclists to ride the sandy shoreline and catch spectacular views of Lake Michigan.”

Johnston attributed much of the success in bringing these seasonal opportunities to the public to the Michigan Horse Council, the Shoreline Cycling Club, the Equine Trails Subcommittee and Michigan’s Edge Mountain Biking Association – groups the DNR worked hand in hand with to hold pilot programs to determine feasibility and interest. These are the second official seasons for both horseback and fat-tire riding at Silver Lake.

For details on both opportunities, including a registration link (horseback riding only), rules, maps, tips and other information, visit Michigan.gov/SilverLake.

Questions? Contact Jody Johnston at 231-721-5858.

Last chance for safe boaters to earn free McDonald’s treats

a man in a DNR conservation officer uniform with a young boy and girl wearing life jackets stand on the grassy shore of a lakeEnd the summer boating season in safe style by wearing your life jacket! It might just nab youth boaters McDonald’s vouchers for ice cream and apple slices, but this is the last weekend Michigan conservation officers are handing out the vouchers.

“Partnering with McDonald’s of Michigan is a fun way to bring attention to the importance of wearing a life jacket,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, state boating law administrator. “Wearing a life jacket is the easiest way to prevent drowning.”

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that in 2022, drowning was the reported cause of death in 75% of boating-related fatalities, and 85% of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

But boating safety is about more than wearing a life jacket. Always check your boat before going out on the water, leave a float plan with someone staying on shore, boat sober and only ride with an operator who has an approved boater safety certificate.

For more safety tips, visit the DNR’s boating safety page. Get your boating safety certificate, check closures and find boat launches at Michigan.gov/Boating.

Questions? Email Cpl. Jill Miller at [email protected].

Don’t take a break from fighting invasive species

Looking up at the bottom of a man's hiking shoe, with dirt and crushed leaves on the treaded soleNo matter how you spend the long weekend, please remember that you have a big impact on where and how invasive species spread – or don’t – to our land and water.

Whether you’re boating, fishing, camping, hunting, enjoying the trails or working on your home landscape, understand what you can do to limit the spread of these species. There are simple steps you can take, such as cleaning your shoes after a hike in the woods, removing aquatic plants from your watercraft and not moving firewood. Learn more at Michigan.gov/Invasives.


Time is running out to visit several of the  state’s coolest historic sites and museums! Some sites close after Labor Day or later in fall, so don’t miss your chance to soak up rich Michigan history.


Are you ready for fall hunting seasons? If you or someone you know needs a hunter safety education course, don’t wait too long. Find a classroom-based or online class or field day near you.


We’re just 400 trees away from reaching the milestone of 100,000 community trees planted in Michigan. Add your tree to the map and help grow the global Trillion Trees campaign!

Showcasing the DNR: mental health mission of conservation officers

Showcasing the DNR: mental health mission of conservation officers

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Showcasing the DNR

conservation officer wearing virtual reality headset

The expanding mental health mission of conservation officers

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Editor’s note: This article discusses sensitive topics. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, or would like free, anonymous help, call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at “988.”

For some, a bad day is just that – a bad day.

But for many Americans, bad days outweigh the good, and that can take a defeating toll on one’s mental, and even physical, health.

In 2021, it was reported that more than one in five U.S. adults, not including the homeless population, lived with a mental illness.

The National Institute of Mental Health defines a mental illness as either “any mental illness,” which varies in impact, or a “serious mental illness,” which results in serious functional impairment that interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.

Whether it’s a trusted friend, family member or licensed therapist, help can come in many forms. It’s important for those seeking assistance to do it in a way that feels comfortable to them.

Responding to the need

conservation officer checking person's fishing licenseToday, there are an additional 250 law enforcement officers, dressed in green, trained and prepared to help during mental health emergencies.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation July 11 that authorizes Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers to actively help individuals they encounter who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

“When it comes to responding to a mental health emergency, every second counts,” said Conservation Officer Jeremy Sergey, who patrols Marquette County. “When someone is considering harming themselves and we have to wait for another agency to arrive, that could be the difference in them becoming seriously injured or injuring someone else.”

Senate Bill 59, sponsored by state Sen. John Cherry, revised the mental health code to include conservation officers.

As peace officers, conservation officers are fully licensed law enforcement officers through the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and are the oldest statewide law enforcement agency in Michigan.

Despite having the same core training as other statewide law enforcement agencies, prior to July 11, conservation officers were not legally authorized to help someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

This meant they had to stand back and hope the person could self-de-escalate or had to contact another law enforcement agency and hope help would arrive in time.

“I lost a beloved cousin in an (out-of-state) park to suicide,” said state Rep. Jennifer Conlin, during a May health policy committee meeting. “The conservation officer watched him sitting there for 30-40 minutes, knew he was in major distress. He approached him a couple of times, couldn’t get him to talk about it.

“He couldn’t call anyone because he wasn’t making a disturbance. Unfortunately, he witnessed my cousin pull out a firearm and take his own life. He’s traumatized by that and felt like he could’ve done something.”

With the new legislation, conservation officers can now immediately help individuals experiencing a mental health crisis by taking them into protective custody so they can be evaluated by an expert, regardless of where they are working.

“We care about the people we serve and protect, and when our officers encountered these situations, without this authority, it placed their safety and safety of others at risk,” said Dave Shaw, chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division.

Mental illness does not discriminate

conservation officer standing on bridge looking over Detroit RiverShaw said he receives administrative notifications of critical incidents that take place across Michigan. In each one where conservation officers were directly involved, the DNR requires officers to receive assistance from a counselor to help process the event.

Shaw said critical incidents are occurring weekly statewide without being limited to cities, rural areas or any one specific region.

Conservation officers are in a position to help as they patrol in all 83 counties of the state and conduct daily rural and urban patrols.

“It’s not just state parks we respond to,” Sergey said. “Often, we are the only officer on duty in rural areas at times. This bill being reclassified means we can now respond when we may be the only ones working.”

Sgt. Damon Owens is a DNR law enforcement supervisor based in Wayne County who also supervises Belle Isle Park, an island offshore of Detroit in the Detroit River.

“Working Belle Isle has opened my eyes,” Owens said. “I have witnessed or investigated several instances of unfortunate life experiences. It’s a beautiful place of peace where, unfortunately, sometimes people go to jump off a bridge or overdose on drugs. It’s become more common and happens on any given beautiful day – the more beautiful the day, the more it seems we see. It could be a veteran, homeless individual or anyone experiencing a mental health emergency.

“We used to have to rely on our ‘verbal judo’ to convince individuals in crisis to come down and self-volunteer to go to a hospital or call another agency to place the individual in protective custody. When this happens, a person often becomes more irate, and it’s harder for them to volunteer or we find out later down the road something happened that we could have prevented.

“I’m confident that we will now save more lives.”

Nature of the job

conservation officers in marine patrol boatAs a staple in the law enforcement community, conservation officers serve a unique role, as they can check in and out of duty when help is needed. This is particularly helpful where there is a shortage of law enforcement presence or many miles between officers.

“When we look at a conservation officer in today’s world, things have changed dramatically,” said state Rep. Curtis VanderWall, during a health policy committee meeting in May. “Especially over past 10 years with a shortage of everyday state troopers, sheriffs and city police, conservation officers get called in a lot of cases they historically wouldn’t be brought into.”

Conservation officers base their day around fish, game, boating, snowmobiling and off-road vehicle patrols, averaging contact with more than 400,000 people each year.

The nature of the job means that they are usually contacting people who have a firearm, knife or other type of tool common for hunting and fishing.

“Every time a DNR officer goes to a call there’s a gun,” said state Rep. Mike Mueller. “When they go into the woods, there may be people experiencing a mental health crisis, carrying firearms. They are in pretty dangerous situations, and they need to have the tools to mitigate those situations.”

Support and training

It’s important that law enforcement officers receive training to safely handle these mental health crisis situations in the moment and have follow-up resources to ensure they are caring for their own well-being.

Conservation officers carry a “care card,” which includes the names and contact information for several resources they can immediately contact if they want to talk with someone.

“Mental health is very important to law enforcement, and we are very proactive in our training,” Shaw said. “It’s a current and developing topic to the point where a lot of calls we go to have a mental health component and we will continue to increase this focus in our training.”

Virtual reality

coservation officer in virtual reality headset with scenario on screen aboveConservation officers are now using virtual reality for mental health crisis training.

“This is unique because it immerses the officer in a realistic environment that cannot be replicated using traditional law enforcement training scenarios,” said acting Lt. Mark Papineau, who oversees the DNR’s conservation officer training programs.

Officers wear a virtual reality headpiece, which takes them through several different mental health scenarios, including bipolar disorder, autism and suicide. Each scenario starts with the officer experiencing the perspective of the person having a mental health crisis.

“Virtual reality teaches officers to use critical thinking and de-escalation skills, coupled with empathy, to help someone experiencing a mental health crisis,” Papineau said. “After experiencing that perspective, officers tend to have greater success de-escalating individuals.”

Next, the officer goes through the scenario again, but this time as the responding officer, and must make decisions about how to work with the individual.

Based on the officer’s decisions, the incident can either escalate or de-escalate. If a choice escalates the incident, the officer is presented with an expanding scenario that tests their critical thinking skills while they work toward a positive de-escalation and successful outcome.

“Each scenario is a win-win; there is no ‘bad’ ending,” Papineau said. “Throughout each scenario, there is an added level of critical thinking skills. Some decisions are timed, which places the officer under added stress to make a quick decision, replicating real-life experiences.”

With virtual reality, officers have the chance to learn new skills and techniques that, when presented in a real-life incident, can save lives.

Favorable outcomes

In a world where societal, financial and other pressures may be constantly or increasingly present, America is moving gradually toward removing the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

The resulting availability of more help to meet the challenges of mental health crises offers the hope of more favorable outcomes being realized.

Giving DNR conservation officers the ability to respond directly to mental health incidents, without delay, is a great example of more assistance being made available to those struggling in crisis circumstances.

This new authority will allow conservation officers to step in to try to de-escalate potentially dangerous or deadly situations, when every second counts.

That type of response capability will no doubt increase the likelihood of more lives being saved and more people being helped across Michigan.

Find out more about mental health services.

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories in our archive at Michigan.gov/DNRStories. To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing articles, sign up for free email delivery at Michigan.gov/DNREmail.

Note to editors: Contact: John Pepin, Showcasing the DNR series editor, 906-226-1352. Accompanying photos and a text-only version of this story are available below for download. Caption information follows. Credit Michigan Department of Natural Resources, unless otherwise noted.

Text-only version of this story.

Belle Isle: Belle Isle is a popular state park and offers bountiful fishing opportunities for anglers. Most conservation officer contacts on the island are positive, but there are occurrences of mental health crises.

Marine: Conservation officers patrol remote areas, often on the water or in the woods, with no backup. Senate Bill 59 equips them with the tools they need to help if they encounter someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

OwensSgt. Damon Owens stands on the MacArthur Bridge, watching the strong current in the Detroit River. The bridge is the only way for car and foot traffic to enter and exit Belle Isle and is a priority area for officers to patrol.

ScenarioA conservation officer completes a mental health virtual reality scenario from the perspective of an indiviudal considering harming themself.

Virtual realityCOs are now utilizing virtual reality for mental health training. Officers are able to view the perspective of the person experiencing a mental health crisis and then repeat the scenario as the responding officer who has to use critical thinking skills to de-escalate the situation.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to Michigan.gov/DNR.
FREE entry to Oakland County Dog Parks on Aug. 26

FREE entry to Oakland County Dog Parks on Aug. 26

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dogs and humans playing at Orion Oaks Dog Park

Vehicle entry fees to be waived on Saturday

Oakland County Parks will mark National Dog Day by waiving vehicle entry fees on Saturday, Aug. 26 at its three dog parks. Oakland County staff will also be on hand from 10 a.m.-noon to distribute free dog-related items, including collapsible water bowls and lighted pet tags, to the first 125 people at each park while supplies last.

Visitors can enjoy free access to the dog parks from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset (unless otherwise posted) at the following parks:

  • Orion Oaks Dog Park, 1200 Joslyn Road in Lake Orion. The park offers a 24-acre fenced enclosure with small dog area, including two trails, picnic shelter, drinking water, field area, modern restrooms and access to Lake Sixteen for swimming (dogs only) via a dog dock
  • Lyon Oaks Dog Park, 52221 Pontiac Trail in Wixom. The dog park features a 13-acre fenced enclosure with small dog area, benches, shelter and picnic tables, water fountain and field training area
  • Red Oaks Dog Park, 31353 Dequindre in Madison Heights, is a 5.2-acre site that offers up to four fenced enclosures, including one for smaller dogs.

While at one of our three dog parks on Saturday, snap a photo (or two) and post on Facebook. Tag both @OCParks and @PremierPetSupply for a chance to win a $150 gift card from Premier Pet Supply. One winner will be announced on Facebook next week.

As a reminder, when visiting the dog parks, dog owners must monitor their dogs at all times, picking up waste as needed. Owners bear full responsibility and liability for their dog’s actions and behavior. Other rules to consider before visiting:

  • Michigan Law requires all dogs older than four months to have a current Michigan dog license, which can be purchased at either the city or county in which the dog resides. To be licensed, proof of current vaccinations is needed
  • Michigan Law requires the dog owner to display a current license on the dog and this is required for use of the dog park
  • There is a maximum of two dogs per park guest in the park at any one time
  • Only dogs four months old and older are allowed in the dog parks
  • No human or pet food can be brought into the dog parks

Dog Park Information

dog playing at dog park

Oakland County Parks

The Oakland County Parks are your recreation destination. OCPR operates 14 parks that provide healthy outdoor adventures, soothing natural surroundings and unlimited options for good times with family and friends. With nearly 7,000 acres and more than 80 miles of trails to explore, you can discover adventure in your own backyard.